Nevada Caucus Shenanigans: Why Mischievous GOP Voters could participate in Saturday’s Democratic Caucus

Nevada voters must register their party affiliation before caucusing – Democrats on Feb. 20, and Republicans on Feb. 23. Nothing about this is unusual for a closed caucus system, but there is one interesting blip.

The Democrats allow same-day registration for their caucuses tomorrow, but Republicans closed their registration on Feb. 13. Therefore, any Republican who registered by Feb. 13 can show up at their caucus tomorrow, register as a Democrat, but still also participate in the Republican caucus on the 23rd. How? Well, the party switch would not show up on the GOP caucus rolls. Clark County Voter Registrar Joe Gloria confirmed the possibility.

Nevada’s caucus system has not been challenged, but other states have faced legal challenges to their primaries in the past. For example, in 1996, a voter referendum changed California primary rules to create “the blanket primary.” Under this system, the ballot listed all the candidates, and voters were able to choose a Republican in one race and a Democrat in another. The person with the most votes from each party on the ballot advanced to the general election.

However, in 2000, the Supreme Court found this system violated a political party’s freedom of association rights. California subsequently got rid of blanket primaries. In 2002, The U.S. District Court in Atlanta threw out a case challenging Georgia’s open primary system, holding that open primaries are legal because they require voters to choose candidates from only one particular party for all races. Even the smaller parties have challenged primary elections. The Libertarian and Green parties feel California’s top two primary system keeps their parties’ members from ever being named on the general election ballot. Residents in New Jersey even argued the state’s closed primaries (similar to Nevada) unconstitutionally disadvantage those who vote independent.

Would crossover voting like this even have a major effect on primary and caucus outcomes? Primary crossover is rare. California allowed crossover voting in the 90s, and political scientists found it had little to no influence on election outcomes.

Of course, losing candidates have claimed in the past that crossover voting caused their defeat. I should note, however, that there is no evidence to support that crossover voting leads to deliberate sabotage. Even so, Georgia Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney, who suffered a 16-pt loss against her primary opponent, Democrat Denise Majette, claimed that thousands of Republicans voted for Majette.

And in 2008, Rush Limbaugh prompted Republicans to launch “Operation Chaos” Although the conservative talk show host merely wanted to cause a shit show in the never-ending Obama-Clinton Democratic presidential primary, the effect was debatable. This happened again in 2012, when liberal blog Daily Kos attempted “Operation Hilarity,” urging Democratic readers to vote for Republican candidate Rick Santorum in order to complicate the GOP primary for the eventual nominee. However, Santorum’s campaign actually contacted Michigan Democrats, asking them to vote in the Republican primary to make it more difficult for Romney. Although 9% of Michigan GOP primary voters were Dems, and over half voted for Santorum, Romney still won the primary and, later, his party’s nomination.

However, in Mississippi’s 2012 primary election, anyone who voted Democrat in the initial primary was ineligible to vote in the Republican primary.

It makes sense for Nevada to institute this rule (especially if Republicans are not offering same-day registration to attempt to even the score).

The moral of the story is that yes, Republicans can vote in the Democratic caucus on Saturday. To what end? It seems that Republicans hate Hillary more than they are afraid of Bernie, so the chatter out here in the desert is that Republican operatives are going to show up to caucus with a fake “bern” on them. On the other hand, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Bernie is more electable than any current Republican candidate.

I was a registered Republican until about a week ago. I’m caucusing for Bernie tomorrow. Depending on how slow the Republicans are to update my information, I might be able to also pull off caucusing for Trump as well (yeah, Bernie is my first choice, and Trump is my second choice). But, if do, I would only do so to watch the shit-show. While it might be legal to double-caucus, something about it doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

But I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up the opportunity to watch something as entertaining as a Republican caucus with the current field of candidates.

Last 5 posts by Marc Randazza

Comments

  1. says

    It's an interesting subject, and I think I'd have to read a lot more about it before I could form a solid opinion on it.

    I live in Arizona; I'm registered independent. I can choose a party primary to vote in, but not for President (on a technicality: Arizona doesn't have presidential primaries, it has presidential preference elections).

    I intend to vote in the Republican primary — so I can vote for whoever's running against Joe Arpaio.

  2. Aaron says

    Just for the funnies, not actually wanting to prompt chaos in here, but take a look at this cartoon

  3. says

    A fascinating if bizarre system. :-)

    Where I live, you have to actually be a party member (as in a fee-paying party member) in order to have any influence on who gets to stand in the elections. Although my impression is that this is usually decided by the party leadership, not by vote of the membership (I may be mistaken).

    Whether people are allowed to belong to more than one party is up to the parties themselves. They're private entities, after all, so they have freedom of association.

  4. Daniel Neely says

    @Jeff Ryan

    They're both The System is Broken populist demagogues. (Assuming Mark isn't trolling anyway.)

  5. says

    California's open primary is the best system. Officials in the Libertarian Party complain of being marginalized, but libertarian *voters* are likely to be solicited by at least one candidate in the all-important November run-off.

    Parties should be encouraged to hold conventions where they decide which candidates have the right to use their label on the primary and run-off ballots.

  6. piperTom says

    If you want democracy done right,… you must learn to live with disappointment. But cheer up: it's all just theater anyway. Vote all you want, the only change in government will be that its power and cost grows and grows and grows and grows…

  7. DanA says

    If that wasn't just a throwaway line joke Marc, I would love to hear why those two candidates appeal to you. I'd heard journalists make claims about Trump-Sanders crossover appeal but just assumed it was their usual inventing a story because they had no real news thing since their platforms are so different rather than a real thing. However if it is, to me, it would be awesome to hear some insight into how you see them representing your/America's best interests as a duo.

  8. Scote says

    This specific instance sounds like voter fraud to me, because they are talking about voting *twice*, whereas crossover in an open primary means you give up your chance to vote for your party's candidate in order to vote for a candidate in the opposing party.

  9. Erwin says

    Don't know why Marc is hoping for Sanders-Trump, but, my perspective is that the political scene, to first order, has been dominated by a conservative(small gvt/corporatist)-liberal(big government/welfare state) stalemate. That stalemate is likely to endure – as any side making appreciable progress immediately loses power.

    This is actually okay, and arguably the will of the voting public. The problem is that conservative/liberal doesn't encompass all of reality and there are a bunch of issues that are important to voters that aren't being addressed by this stalemate. This is arguably why populist candidates are whipping the establishment. [That and, Jeb? Really?? Clinton? Really?? They kinda make hemophiliac British princes look good.]

    Think of it as a sheet of paper with two bulls trying to move a point left/right. The problem is that the average voter would prefer that the point move up. Left/right is liberal/conservative. Up/down is, probably, populist/elitist.

    Issues that Sanders/Trump would likely address include…
    1. Increasing the labor pool…legal immigration…illegal immigration…free trade pacts…all increase the labor pool…and labor in this country is doing worse than it was 30 years ago. Intuitively, it makes sense. Practically…every H1 hire I've made has been motivated at least partially by decreased cost and increased longevity. And, well, competing with Chinese labor has not worked out well for the average worker.
    2. Gambling with the public purse…ie…the financial industry.

    Given that these occupy something like 20% of the US economy, each, they are ~5 trillion dollar problems. Those are vastly more interesting than Planned Parenthood. Admittedly, each candidate is also proposing bad ideas…but, hopefully the good ideas get implemented.

    –Erwin

  10. Eva says

    So you would have to be pretty nimble to be able to employ that strategy of switch hitting Dem/GOP caucus thing I would believe.

    Just got word Trump won Nevada? Clinton won the Dem vote? So I guess you got half your wish…

  11. David Schwartz says

    Scote: You're voting twice, but it's one vote in each of two completely different races. One race is for the Republican candidate for President, the other race is for the Democratic candidate for President.

  12. Rsteinmetz says

    Cynthia McKinney has said many things, some of them were probably true but her loss was more probably caused by her antics and her father's anti sematic remarks. She has been a 9/11 Truther, accused GWB of knowing about the attack before it happened and the CIA of assasinating MLK, among other things. She was so disliked and distrusted by her Democratic House collegues her seniority was not restored when she won reelection in 2004. Along the way she she assulted a Capital Police officier doing his job.

  13. says

    I understand supporting Bernie Sanders. He is not my personal choice, but I respect him greatly and I know many smart people that support him.

    May I ask why Trump is your second choice? His record in business is not nearly so impressive as he likes people to believe and he is ultra-right wing. Personally, Rubio is my first choice, though I do not agree with his entire platform.

  14. Carl Pham says

    On the other hand, the latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Bernie is more electable than any current Republican candidate.

    They must be smoking some good shit.

  15. Encinal says

    The "free association" argument is a bit problematic; it's the state that's footing the bill for running the election.

  16. A. Nagy says

    Trump…ultra right wing…sure let's just ignore his record. He is every single position along the authoritarian stretch his only consistency is that Trump with lots of government power will fix it.

  17. joshuaism says

    I would think that any Republican to Dem. crossover saboteur should vote Hillary on the assumption that:

    1. She is more conservative than Bernie so if elected she would ruin fewer things (according to a republican mindframe)
    2. Benghazi! and private e-mail servers lend themselves to an October surprise. (probably not true, but a Republican could believe it)

    Personally I believe Bernie is infinitely more electable than Clinton so I don't think voting Bernie is the smart move for the saboteur. But since there are any number of competing rubrics for selecting a nominee then there can likely be no unified strategy between crossover voters. So I don't think you can expect any effect from them.

  18. Eva says

    Hey you do have interesting divergent political leanings.

    I don't think you could more polar opposite in most respects (political and their respective resumes) regarding Sanders and Trump yet you have an interest for both of these candidates.

  19. James says

    Logically all Nevada voters could use the registration loophole provided the voters in question knew about the flaw prior to Feb 13th.